sports in mexico
The nation of Mexico is well-known for its tacos and tequila, but less known for its staggering poverty rates and rising obesity cases. The Mexican State of Jalisco has a poverty rate of 41%; nearly half of the population lives without basic nutrition and suffers from the violence and theft of local drug cartels. Children raised in the vicious cycle of generational poverty suffer the most. Sports can provide a refuge for these children growing up surrounded by violence and hardship. Organized sports in Mexico provide children with the safety to build confidence and essential life skills that can help end cyclical poverty.

Sports Address Health Concerns

According to Mexico’s national social development board in May 2020, half of all Mexican children ages five through 14 hadn’t engaged in physical exercise for at least a year. The lack of physical activities and available sports contributes to Mexico’s climbing obesity rate, which neared 30% as of early 2020.

Malnutrition is typically equated with being underweight, but overweight children in poverty are also victims of malnutrition. In both instances, the child’s brain remains underdeveloped and cannot reach its full potential. Without proper nutrients, it is increasingly difficult for children to retain information and benefit from education.

The Social Significance of Sports

An aspect of poverty often overlooked is the lack of opportunity that children have to build and practice social skills. Sports in Mexico provide a safe space for children to play, socialize and build friendships without the threat of theft and violence that lurk on the streets.

Often played casually without referees, sports in Mexico frequently result in a conversation or reflection post-game. These discussions often revolve around gender equality, teamwork, perseverance, diversity or cooperation. Such discussions exemplify how the universal language of sports can help people find common ground and grow together.

Organizations Creating Space for Sports

Organized sports in Mexico offer a haven for children trying to avoid violence. Exercise and engagement in a stimulating social environment provide further benefits for their future. Thanks to the efforts of Children International, there are five community centers in the capital of Jalisco. These community centers provide protected spaces where children can read, use computers, play sports and learn about healthy eating habits.

At the beginning of 2020, the UEFA Foundation for Children collaborated with the Fundación del Empresariado Chihuahuense (FECHAC) to open and run 88 schools that offer an opportunity for children to get involved in sports. The organizations hope to increase that number of schools to more than 100 in the next two years.

The Sports for Sharing initiative, or Deportes para Compartir, aims to teach children healthy lifestyles while also introducing cultural diversity and social issues. The initiative has reached more than 63,000 young Mexicans across the country and aims to expand internationally. The program empowers girls who are playing sports for the first time and reduces street violence by providing sports outlets for young men.

The physical and social rewards that children gain from sports in Mexico cannot be overstated. In addition to health and social benefits, playing sports acts as an escape for children leading difficult lives in poverty. It allows children to feel normal, forget the harshness of their world and imagine a better life for themselves. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make increasing opportunities for children’s sports in Mexico a priority.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Pixabay

Tegla LoroupeAt the 1994 New York City Marathon, Tegla Loroupe of Kenya made history as the first African woman to win a major marathon title. For years, African men had great success over the distance and now a female compatriot could share in the glory. Loroupe has won several major world marathons and broken world records. Loroupe has since retired from professional running and has involved herself in supporting peace, prosperity and economic advancement in Kenya and across Africa.

The Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation

Loroupe says that she grew up surrounded by conflict. All around her, she saw violence at the hands of warring tribes in Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. In these regions, many tribes depend upon livestock farming to stay afloat. However, resources like food and water can be scarce. This leads to violence among the tribes and what people know as rustling: the stealing of cattle. Many tribes resort to the use of force as they otherwise risk falling into severe poverty.

In 2003, Loroupe founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF). She wanted an end to the conflict between the tribes and sought peace through sports. Loroupe based the foundation on three pillars: peacebuilding, education and supporting refugee athletes.

Tegla Loroupe Peace Race

A hallmark of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Peace Race, a 10-kilometer run that hosts runners from warring tribes. They put their weapons down to compete in this race and build stronger relations with the goal of ultimately preventing further violence.

Loroupe says that the Peace Race had strong effects within just a few years. Deaths from fighting between tribes drastically reduced and people have reached a better understanding of one another. Further, many warriors surrendered their weapons for the sake of peace.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, professional soccer player, Lucky Mkosana of Zimbabwe, agreed that “sports definitely contribute a significant amount to world peace.” He highlighted how athletic competition creates positive exposure to other cultures and fosters “an environment where people can learn” about those from outside groups.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, Mkosana understands well that children having outlets like sports can open them up to opportunities. He is a founder of the BYS Academy, a soccer school for vulnerable youth in his hometown of Plumtree, Zimbabwe.

The Importance of Education

Another arm of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Education and Peace School (TLE&PC). Here, children receive the opportunity to learn after experiencing displacement due to conflict. The school also acts as an orphanage for its students, giving them a safe place to call home.

As of early 2020, the school had 460 students and Loroupe hopes to eventually increase enrollment to 1,000 students. Recognizing the importance of a good education, Loroupe wants to ensure that all students have access to a good learning environment. Mkosana said that “talent is spread evenly but resources are not.” Loroupe’s academy makes an effort to provide resources to all.

Loroupe also says that improved access to learning can help reduce violence. Education creates opportunity, and without one, people do what they feel they must do in order to survive. With schooling, this need not be the case. People can create livelihoods for themselves and live without violence.

Heading the Refugee Olympic Team

More recently, Loroupe once again became the leader of the Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Olympics. The Refugee Olympic Team first appeared in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which Loroupe also led.

Loroupe had experience working with refugee athletes at the TLPF so she was a clear choice to head the refugee team at the Olympics. The 2016 team comprised of 10 athletes, who Loroupe says, “reminded the world of the sufferings and perseverance of millions of refugees around the world.”

It was also important for refugees to see that these athletes were able to find success. There was hope for them and they can achieve their dreams just as the members of the Refugee Olympic Team had.

Looking Forward

Loroupe’s promotion of peace through sport through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation has changed much in Kenya since its inception. Warriors are laying down their arms and children are obtaining educational opportunities. The story of the TLPF is a developing one, but from what it has accomplished so far, peace in Kenya is extending further than ever before.

Evan Driscoll
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The NBA in AfricaThe National Basketball Association (NBA) is known as one of the best leading professional basketball leagues to ever exist. With 30 franchises across North America, the NBA has a large following and media presence with fans and supporters from all around the globe. The top NBA players have lucrative careers that many young people dream of achieving. However, this dream has always seemed out of reach for young people in Africa. Many who play basketball in Africa are unsure of how to pursue a successful athletic career, may lack the access to adequate training and coaching and may not even be aware of the possibility. The NBA has partnered with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to create the Basketball Africa League (BAL), the first official league outside of North America. The NBA in Africa could be a complete game-changer, opening up possibilities and positively impacting Africa’s economy.

The Basketball Africa League

Though the BAL is the first NBA league in Africa, it is certainly not the NBA’s first interaction with the continent. Basketball Without Borders (BWB), also in collaboration with FIBA, is an international basketball camp that unites youth from Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa in order to promote the sport and encourage social change. The top youth players train under NBA players and coaches. Life skills training is also provided. It focuses on the importance of education, leadership, development and health. The participation of young women is important to NBA Africa, allowing them opportunities that were never an option before. In 2019, BWB hosted its 17th event in Africa. BWB is much more than just basketball, it helps players develop important life skills that they can take forward.

The NBA Academy Africa

The NBA’s activity in Africa does not end at the BWB. The NBA Academy is an elite basketball initiative meant to provide high schoolers outside of the U.S with holistic training development. There are six academies across Australia, China, India, Mexico and Africa (Senegal). The Senegal center opened in 2018 and is the primary training location for NBA Academy Africa prospects. The NBA Academy’s holistic approach includes a focus on education. These young people either attend a local public school or receive a scholarship to a local private school. They also receive additional academic support.

In December 2019, the BAL announced the host cities of Cairo (Egypt), Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Luanda (Angola), Rabat (Morocco) and Monastir (Tunisia). The NBA will host games in these cities and build infrastructure. Rwanda will also host BAL Finals. These games started in 2020 but COVID-19 postponed further events.

Benefits of the NBA Africa

Dikembe Mutombo, a former Congolese-American NBA player, expressed his gratitude and excitement for the BAL. Mutombo was a rare case of an African making it to the NBA. He knows that for many children in Africa, the prospect is out of reach. Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian-Canadian former professional basketball player who is now president of the Toronto Raptors, expressed that the BAL will also allow for new opportunities of employment and revenue in Africa.

Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050. Accordingly, the NBA in Africa is an especially important part of the development and dreams of the new generations to come. The NBA in Africa will create jobs, revenue and stimulate the economy. The NBA is thus contributing to the alleviation of poverty in Africa.

Grace Wang
Photo: Flickr

Empower Indigenous WomenAt the dawn of the 21st century, women entered the world of Bolivian professional wrestling for the first time. Known as the Flying Cholitas, this group is made up entirely of indigenous women from the city of El Alto. Encapsulating the revolutionary spirit of El Alto, the Flying Cholitas act as positive role models who empower indigenous women.

The City of El Alto

El Alto is the largest city in Latin America with an indigenous majority population. Throughout Bolivia’s history, El Alto and its cholitas have been known for their revolutionary spirit. The term “cholita” is derived from “chola,” a phrase used to refer to indigenous or mixed-race women in a derogatory manner. The word “cholita” is now used in a positive light when referring to indigenous women throughout Bolivia.

El Alto, situated on a mountain overlooking Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, laid siege to it in the 1700s. It did so again in 2003, during the Bolivian Gas War, which led to the ousting of then-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. Afterward, the support of El Alto’s indigenous population saw the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, elected in 2005.

The indigenous population of Bolivia has fallen victim to various forms of institutionalized racism throughout history. They have been denied various civic services, such as the right to vote and the chance at higher education. However, during his time in office, Evo Morales opened government positions to cholitas. As a result, the indigenous women were enabled to play a role in drafting the new constitution. The Flying Cholitas empower indigenous women by embodying this revolutionary spirit of the everyday cholita, making them quite popular.

What is Cholita Wrestling?

When The Flying Cholitas first formed, they served as a novelty act to increase ticket sales for the male-dominated “Titans of the Ring.” Both the male and female acts draw heavily from Mexico’s professional wrestling, known as “lucha libre.” The use of signature moves, entrance music and the hero versus villain dynamic — known as “técnicas” and “rudas,” in this case — display the influence of this format. Fans often join in the fun by jeering and splashing water on “rudas” and cheering for the “técnicas.”

The uniqueness of the cholitas helps attract sizable crowds. The wrestlers’ clothing noticeably deviates from that of “lucha libre” and other professional wrestling formats. Instead of bikinis and spandex, The Flying Cholitas wear clothes similar to ones they wear in the streets and at home. In the ring, the wrestlers will commonly wear bowler hats, long braids, shawls and pleated skirts. Cholitas display these garments to show pride in their heritage and distinguish themselves from the pants-wearing, non-indigenous women.

To become a female wrestler, candidates must undergo a year of training before receiving their certificate. In addition to allowing them to fight, the certificate is a symbol of pride: proof that they can earn money through skill and hard work.

Gender in Bolivia

Bolivia has the highest rate of domestic and sexual abuse in Latin America. In 2015, 70% of women reported having faced some form of physical or psychological abuse. The lack of financial opportunities for women often causes them to stay in these harmful relationships.

The original Flying Cholitas were abuse victims who joined the sport as an outlet for their anger. Now, these wrestlers empower indigenous women in similar situations. The wrestling matches provide a public space to witness the strength of women, especially in mixed matches where women battle men. However, the cholitas had to fight outside of the ring as well to gain more equality in the sport.

When the Flying Cholitas first started wrestling, they were unpaid and barred from using the locker room. As their popularity grew, the female wrestlers gained greater autonomy. They formed the Association for Fighting Cholitas. This allows them to organize their fights and use the facilities. Furthermore, the Flying Cholitas are now paid for their work, around $20-$25 per match. This extra income helps the wrestlers put their children through school and grants them greater freedom from their husbands.

After 20 years, the popularity of the Flying Cholitas has spread, with hotels in the area offering packages that include tickets and transit to their shows. The Flying Cholitas even travel throughout Bolivia to bring their rowdy fights to the masses and empower indigenous women across the nation.

Overall, the Flying Cholitas are a powerful influence in changing the perception of indigenous women in Bolivia. Hopefully, this group will continue to have a significant impact in the coming years.

– Riley Behlke
Photo: Flickr

Baseball Around The World
Baseball has been known as America’s game since its creation in 1839. It has served as an entertainment outlet for many Americans, bringing about positive feelings of nostalgia and pure competitive joy. As time went on, baseball proved to be a popular sport around the world, allowing kids to chase dreams of home runs and perfect games. With anything long enough to be a bat, and round enough to be a ball, people around the world have found numerous ways to create the game of baseball.

Kids Chasing Their Dreams

Many people in impoverished countries have used baseball as a way to express their competitiveness. With most professional teams coming from the United States and Korea, many kids in impoverished countries dream of one day making it to the biggest professional stage for baseball. For these kids, that starts with the Little League World Series. The Little League Baseball organization has put young kids on the world stage since 1939. Little League teams can represent their region in a world tournament every August. Historically, the United States and China have produced powerhouse teams that dominate consistently. However, every few years, the tournament experiences new young talent from countries like Uganda and Mexico, showing how baseball around the world has been expanding.

In 2012, the Little League World Series tournament said hello to its first team from Uganda. Though the team lacked skill, they made history by appearing in the tournament. Then in 2015, Uganda made its second appearance, showing great improvement since its original appearance. According to Roger Sherman, “Ugandan baseball is young and has faced a lot of obstacles. But these kids have gotten really good really fast, and they aren’t going away any time soon.” The sport has become a staple in Uganda as they continue to build up their baseball communities. Creating leagues and supporting kids in developing countries is one way that baseball has historically helped impoverished communities grow. Baseball around the world has impacted kids, and it continues to do so.

Fighting Poverty With Baseball

More recently, baseball has proven to be a huge supporter of ending poverty around the world. According to Stuart Anderson, 27% of major league players are foreign-born, with the majority of those players coming from the Dominican Republic. About 30% of the Dominican Republic population is living below the poverty line. It is only natural for major league baseball players to use their popularity and skill to support their home countries.

Food for the Hungry, a global nonprofit organization, has teamed up with many major league baseball players to launch the Striking Out Poverty initiative. For the last two years, players like Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dee Gordan of the Seattle Mariners and Jake Flaherty and Michael Wacha both of the St. Louis Cardinals, have dedicated their skills to help raise awareness for countries below the poverty line. Some play for clean water, some play for food donations, some play for farmers and some play to save lives.

How to Help

Anyone can help by donating. Showing support for a team or player’s personal campaign can make a big impact. With each game played, they generate thousands of dollars to donate. With the help of fans across the United States and the world, they can generate even more.

For decades now, baseball has spread its popularity around the world. It is a sport that, played any way possible, provides joy and escape for many people. The sport itself and the professional players have had a positive impact on communities around the world.

Sophia Cloonan
Photo: Flickr

alphonso daviesAt the age of 19, Alphonso Davies has become the face of Canadian soccer and one of the most highly regarded left-backs in the world. After winning two Bundesliga titles, two German Cups and Bundesliga Rookie of the Season for 2019-20, Davies became the first Canadian to win the European Champions League, club soccer’s most coveted prize. Although the teenager’s incredible skills already shine throughout Europe, his journey from a refugee camp to the soccer stadium is an even more fascinating tale.

Born in a Refugee Camp in Ghana

The Davies family is of Liberian origin. Alphonso’s parents, Debeah and Victoria Davies, once lived in Monrovia, the nation’s capital. When the second civil war broke out in Liberia in April 1999, the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) besieged the capital city. The war caused numerous deaths and displaced more than 450,000 Liberians from their homes, including the Davies parents. They soon fled their homeland and arrived in Buduburam, Ghana. Sheltering in a refugee camp, they struggled every day to find clean water and food. Additionally, as Dabeah Davies recollects, he sometimes had to carry guns just to survive. It was into this difficult life that the little Alphonso was born, in the refugee camp on November 2, 2000.

The Canadian Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP)

By the end of the twentieth century, there were approximately 18 million refugees and counting in the world. The global refugee problem is particularly serious in Africa, which harbors nearly half of the world’s refugees. Liberia, for example, was among the countries generating the most displaced persons at this time.

Without external assistance, life as a refugee would have appeared hopeless. Fortunately, the Davies family learned of the Canadian government’s Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). This initiative helps international refugees resettle in Canada by providing direct financial support and other essential services. These include port of entry and reception, temporary accommodation and life skills training. The Davies family filled out forms, completed an interview and successfully relocated to Ontario when Alphonso was five. They eventually settled down in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Soccer Starlet

As a child in Edmonton, Alphonso Davies first played soccer in school teams. He then played through Free Footie, a local after-school soccer league for elementary schoolers who cannot afford registration fees, equipment or transportation to games. The coaches immediately discovered Davies’ talent and helped him make rapid progress. Davies joined the Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Residency program at just 14 years old. One year later, he made history as the first player born in the 2000s to play Major League Soccer (MLS). In 2017, only weeks after having obtained his Canadian citizenship, Davies received the call from the Canadian men’s national team. He then became the youngest player to ever play and score on the national team.

The once-in-a-generation talent soon attracted interest from European clubs as well. In January 2019, Davies joined FC Bayern for a then-record transfer fee of $13.5 million. After his soaring season in Germany and strong performance against Chelsea and Barcelona in the European Champions League, the world  knows this soccer star by name. On the Champions League Final night, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, congratulated Davies on Twitter. Trudeau wrote: “A historic moment – you made Canadians proud out there.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Despite gaining global recognition as a soccer prodigy, Davies’ feet are rooted firmly on the ground. He has not forgotten the hard days he faced or the help he received. During his 2018 speech at a FIFA Congress, Davies recounted his moving journey from being a refugee in Africa to a professional soccer player in Canada.

Davies also collaborates with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), endeavoring to inspire more refugees using his own story. In April 2020, in support of UNHCR’s COVID-19 appeal, Davies and fellow soccer player from refugee camp Asmir Begović held an eFootball PES 2020 live stream tournament. Their aim was to raise funds for the U.N. Refugee Agency’s COVID-19 response. This initiative ensures that national health plans include refugees and give them access to necessities like soap and clean water.

“I want to use my platform for causes that I care about,” said Davies. “As a former refugee myself I am very grateful for the help my family received, and the opportunities this opened up for me and where it has brought me. I hope that whilst people are keeping themselves and their families safe, they can also help support refugees who have lost everything.”

The success and promising future of Alphonso Davies as a soccer starlet from a refugee camp are beyond inspiring. Talent shines everywhere, so long as it can grow in an environment of support. With growing amounts of governmental and organizational assistance for global refugees, it is not irrational to expect success from young resettled people from all walks of life.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

baseball players helping to fight povertyMajor League Baseball encompasses players from all around the world who go to North America to play the highest level of baseball. Players often come from humble beginnings and struggle along the way, in order to make it playing professional baseball. It isn’t uncommon for players to come from impoverished communities to play professional baseball. Players often want to give back to the people in their native communities who helped them achieve their dream, while also inspiring other athletes to help poverty-stricken communities. There are several professional baseball players helping to fight poverty. There are also baseball charity campaigns joining in the fight.

Baseball Players Helping to Fight Poverty

  1. David Ortiz: Ortiz grew up in the Dominican Republic and would later become a sports icon in Boston, winning three World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz founded the David Ortiz Children’s Fund to help children in Boston and his native country of the Dominican Republic have essential cardiac services that they need, like cardiac surgeries. To date, his children’s fund has provided over 1,600 low-income children with detection and screening for cardiac care, support for a regular rural outreach and detection program in the Dominican Republic and child life specialist support for over 4,000 children.
  2. Albert Pujols: Pujols also grew up in the Dominican Republic and is a three-time Most Valuable Player award winner and a two-time World Series Champion. In 2005, Pujols and his wife started the Pujols Family Foundation which aims to meet the needs of children with Down syndrome and improve the quality of life of impoverished people in the Dominican Republic. The foundation provides impoverished people in the Dominican Republic with health care, mentorship and education. The foundation set up a vocational school that teaches women how to sew and make jewelry. Over 18,000 people in the most desolate areas of the country have received medical care thanks to the foundation.
  3. Striking Out Poverty 2019: Throughout the 2019 baseball season, a number of individuals joined together to launch a campaign titled Striking Out Poverty 2019. The campaign is a joint initiative between Big League Impact and Food for the Hungry. Big League Impact helps impoverished communities have basic needs fulfilled like clean water, food and medical care. Food for the Hungry works in some of the poorest countries in the world, helping those most in need with food, along with educational and vocational training. Striking Out Poverty 2019 raised nearly $300,000 for these organizations through six sub-campaigns among individual players or teams.
  4. Luke Weaver: A pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Luke Weaver raised $132,610 through his 22X campaign, which will go towards helping Rohingya refugees. Weaver’s total amount raised came from his strikeout total which was 69. Through his donation and matching donations, each strikeout of his was worth $1,921.88.
  5. Nick Ahmed: Among the baseball players helping to fight poverty is Nick Ahmed. This shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks raised $104,575 from his Every Hit Makes a Difference campaign, part of which will go towards a community center in the Dominican Republic. The center will be a place for education and job training as well as a place to receive medicine. The total came through donations and his own contribution. Each hit of his amounted to $736.44 towards his campaign.

As an international sport that brings players together from all over the world and from all different backgrounds, baseball has the power to unite. Players like David Ortiz and Albert Pujols have given back to the communities that they grew up in, improving the lives of those who walk the same ground they walked before they were professional athletes. The Striking Out Poverty 2019 campaign has also helped individuals who are affected by poverty. The Professional baseball community and its fight against poverty shows the impact that can be made when individuals who have a platform help those in need.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Flickr

cost of fixing poverty
Global poverty appears to be a daunting problem. With numerous countries facing high rates of homelessness, economic instability and high child mortality rates, feasible solutions may seem out of reach. However, the cost of fixing poverty with solutions such as building water wells is not an astronomical figure. It actually costs about as much as one of America’s favorite pastimes: the NBA Disney season.

The Cost of a Season

The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the NBA season to go on hiatus. It only recently reopened — this time, in Walt Disney World. The NBA is paying Walt Disney World $1.5 million per day to host 22 professional basketball teams, totaling more than $150 million for the entire Disney season. The season includes eight missed, regular-season games and then playoffs. The overall cost covers essentials such as housing, courts, meals, COVID-19 testing, transportation, entertainment, medical support and security for the players and staff. When asked about the cost, Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, stated that it certainly was not economical for the league but that they felt an obligation to have a season.

The Cost of Poverty

With a total value of about $8 billion per year, the NBA’s usual revenue is about 20% of President Trump’s 2021 request for the USAID budget — which is about $41 billion. This request makes it clear that solving global poverty is not quite as big a task as it might seem. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent $150 million in grants to provide hepatitis B vaccines to 4 million children. For 600,000 of these children, this was their first time receiving a vaccination. However, the foundation’s grant is equivalent to the $150-million 2020 NBA season in Disney World.

The cost of the 2020 NBA season could also make a dramatic difference in the lives of people in countries such as Afghanistan,  many of whom do not have access to clean water. The average cost of installing a water well is $8,000, although it can range from $1,700 to $30,000 depending on the location and difficulty of construction. Taking the price of an average well, $150 million could provide about 19,000 wells — each of which could serve roughly 2,000 people.

Who Would Benefit and How?

Access to clean water saves millions of lives and produces a series of solutions to poverty. Increasing access to safe water can prevent child and adult deaths from diseases such as diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. With 19,000 wells serving about 2,000 people each, approximately 38 million people would benefit from the same amount of money that the NBA used for the end of their 2020 season. The poorest city in the world, Kabul, Afghanistan, has a population of 4.38 million people. An investment in wells equivalent to the 2020 NBA season would not only grant access to clean, safe water for all of Kabul’s population but to all of Afghanistan’s population of 37.17 million people.

A Comparison for Thought: The Cost of Fixing Poverty

The NBA season holds a lot of value to people in the United States, and it is clearly not the NBA’s responsibility to provide money for foreign aid. What the 2020 NBA season proved, however, is that the cost of fixing poverty is comparable to the cost of leisure and athletic entertainment. Understanding that the same NBA budget of $150 million could serve 38 million people makes the cost of fixing poverty a bit more concrete. Hopefully, this enables policy-makers and policy influencers in the United States to prioritize foreign aid.

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Playing sports can foster development for developing countries
The implementation of sports programs provides children with the opportunity to learn teamwork, participation and leadership qualities. Physical activity also stimulates health improvements and offers children equal opportunities to engage in activities. Large, sports associations also spread awareness of global poverty and extend campaigns to a much greater audience. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

World Health Organization (WHO)

In 2018, the World Health Organization published a global action plan to increase the amount of physical activity worldwide. WHO plans to create a healthier world by 2030. Their strategy is to deliver various selections of physical activity including sports, recreational activities and walking. WHO specifically wants to create opportunities for women, middle-aged adults and individuals with debilities. Currently, 75% of children and 25% of adults do not satisfy the global standard for physical activity. Exercise is essential for healthcare and the development of a nation. Physical activity has also been confirmed to prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health illnesses. Physical activity is important for child development, teaching children numerous lessons and qualities. Therefore, WHO targets to increase the amount of regular physical activity to reduce the amount of premature mortality. The WHO’s physical activity plan will also further aide in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also designed sports programs to protect children from violence, disrupt inequality norms and eliminate limits on participation based on physical capabilities. The nonprofit organization strives for “inclusive sport.” UNICEF believes that sports will bring communities together in a positive setting. Sports also provide children with disabilities the opportunity to recognize their potential.  From 2010 to 2013, the Montenegro government and UNICEF ran an “It’s about ability” campaign. The campaign’s primary goal was to create a more accepting society. At the end of the campaign, Montenegro’s citizens recorded more than a 40% increase in citizen approval of their children being in the same class as a child with disabilities. This newfound acceptance will further benefit Montenegro’s government and economy. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

NFL Athlete Josh Doctson

Over the past couple of months, the coronavirus has dictated several shutdowns across the globe. The rise in the uncertainty of the virus has influenced several U.S. athletes to skip on this year’s upcoming season. One NFL star, Josh Doctson, has decided to sit-out this season and advocate for the world’s poor. Mr. Doctson plans on visiting several African countries, including Rwanda, in hope that he will raise awareness for the underprivileged. The NFL player’s decision to conduct a humanitarian campaign has attracted a lot of attention thus far and therefore already raised attentiveness for the cause.

Sports Events

Local sports events have the potential to generate employment and incentivize the production of goods and services related to the event. Sportanddev.org reports that marathon events hosted by local communities in Peru create a host of economic opportunities. One race, in particular, generated a manufacturing demand and a surge in tourism activities.

Sports programs have been proven to create safe environments, disrupt societal norms and teach children valuable lessons. If implemented appropriately, sports can foster development in developing nations. Nonprofit organizations, international sports teams and professional players also spread global awareness for poverty and inequality. As sports products become widely available globally, sports programs will begin to be implemented at an increasing rate and further contribute to the health, development and success of a nation’s upcoming generation and their economy.

John Brinkman
Photo: Flickr

Jamaica's First Skatepark
Will Wilson, the co-founder of nonprofit organization Flipping Youth, is building Jamaica’s first skatepark. Wilson and his nonprofit are building Freedom SkatePark in an effort to make action sports an accessible recreational opportunity for Jamaican youth.

What Is Flipping Youth?

After an exposure to international poverty while volunteering abroad, passionate skateboarder Will Wilson came up with the idea for Flipping Youth — a nonprofit organization driven by the mission to “empower young people from challenging environments internationally through action sports, creative arts and entrepreneurship.” This unique idea has propelled Wilson to accomplish great acts of service in impoverished countries, specifically Jamaica. In addition to fostering strong skating communities, Flipping Youth seeks to promote youth entrepreneurship, teach business skills and improve employability.

Flipping Youth in Jamaica

After watching a viral skate video that showcased a talented, Jamaican skater and a budding skateboarding community in 2016 — Wilson decided to bring Flipping Youth to Kingston, Jamaica. The idea was to help grow the skateboarding community even more. Since then, Flipping Youth has developed both local and international relationships to better understand what sort of aid is most needed in Jamaica. Flipping Youth’s main goal at the time was to decide the best way to implement the Freedom SkatePark, in an effort to foster a strong community of Jamaican youth. Also, safety is an important feature of the program for Wilson. He wants to ensure that the skatepark will become neither a place for drugs nor other criminal activities.

Progress Through Partnerships

Though the planning and building process has been slow, the future looks promising for Jamaica’s first skatepark. Thanks to funding from popular skate brands such as Supreme New York and a partnership with a nonprofit called Concrete Jungle Foundation, the Freedom Skate Park is nearly complete. Notably so, Concrete Jungle Foundation helped to complete over half of the project, including the construction of the park, itself.

Kevin Bourke, a member of the Freedom Skatepark team, celebrated overcoming many obstacles throughout the project’s duration, stating “It shows that a project that was rooted in love [can’t] be stopped.”

Improving Communities Through Sports and Activities

Flipping Youth is not the only organization using recreational opportunities to empower youth, globally. In the past, UNESCO has used youth sports programs to encourage social cohesion in areas of conflict. Organizations like Flipping Youth understand the value of recreational opportunities for youth in struggling communities. Recreation is not just for fun; according to Dr. Seiko Sugita of UNESCO Beirut, “Sports [have] proven to be a cost-effective and powerful tool for promoting peace and human values such as respect for others, teamwork, discipline, diversity and empathy.”

Recreation and Youth Empowerment

Working from a similar approach, Will Wilson’s project to create Jamaica’s first skatepark is an example of international development rooted in recreational opportunities and youth empowerment. Flipping Youth and other organizations look to sports and activities as a means of creating strong, vibrant communities and thus — a better future for younger generations and society as a whole.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Pixabay